Discover the 5 greatest African kingdoms in history

Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt

THE African continent, different from what many still think, it is not a unitary group of peoples and cultures. The societies scattered throughout the land have unique and diverse characteristics, and had very important kingdoms for the strengthening and development of the continent as a whole, coming to be known as “the land of gold”. Below is a list of 5 reigns that marked the history of the continent.

The 5 greatest African kingdoms

Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt

Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt

The reign of Cleopatra, daughter of King Ptolemy XII, was the last and one of the most important and prosperous in Ancient Egypt. Born in Alexandria, she had an education based on the Greek arts of rhetoric and philosophy. She probably studied at the Alexandria library and was the only one in her dynasty to master the Egyptian language, while the Egyptian nobility spoke Greek. In addition, he spoke 9 languages, had knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and potions. He was extremely strategist and intelligent.

He began to rule Egypt in 69 BC, at the age of 17, after the death of his father, when he married his brother, Ptolemy XIII, only 13 years old. During his reign, Egypt experienced an intense period of prosperity and wealth. Cleopatra built several temples and synagogues, dealt with precarious problems of hunger in the kingdom due to the few floods on the Nile River and maintained good communication with the Egyptian people, as a result of her fluency in the language.

Cleopatra also maintained good relations with Rome, avoiding wars and forming very important alliances, which differentiated her, among other things, from other Pharaohs. From his relationship with the Romans, he met General Júlio César, a great warrior and adored by the Romans, with whom he had an affair and a son, Cesario.

After César’s death, she met Marco Antônio, whom he married shortly after, and they became the most influential couple of the time. Due to political disagreements, Marco Antônio and Caesar’s nephew, Otaviano, started a war in which Otaviano won.

Marco Antônio commits suicide because he receives news that his beloved had died and Cleopatra did too, so as not to be taken as a trophy by the Romans. Some reports say that she was found on a bed with fine clothes and beautiful ornaments and jewelry and a calm face. It marked the history of Egypt forever.

Mansa Mussa: The richest man in history

Mansa Mussa

The kingdom of Mali was initially a small kingdom on the banks of the Niger River, which grew through trade routes down that river. The sovereigns (mansa – rei) were very interesting figures and the most important and influential of them was Mansa Mussa.

King of Tombuctu, King Mussa became known as the richest man in history. The value of his fortune is still uncertain, but according to the magazine, Augusto César, the Roman Emperor, had an estimated wealth of around 4.6 trillion, and was the second richest man in the world, second only to Mansa Mussa.

Stories also tell that between 1324 and 1325, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy Muslim city with a caravan of thousands of people. In a passage in Cairo, Mussa would have distributed so much gold to the population that the value of the metal of the time was devalued, and the city went through a period of gigantic inflation, having recovered only after 10 years.

Nubia and the reign of Piankhy Peye

Current Nubian

The kingdom of Kush, located in present-day Nubia, was a very rich and important kingdom for the surrounding civilizations, including Egypt and Ethiopia. For centuries, Kush’s riches have been taken to Egypt and enriched society: gold, ivory, incense, cattle, slaves, and others. The Egyptians felt threatened by the aggrandizement of Cuxite civilization and conquered the people, making Kush a viceroyalty.

Around 1000 BC, the monarch Piankhy Peye (or Piiê) unified Egypt and Kush when he defeated the Assyrians who were there and made the kingdom of Kush once again rise as a rich and independent civilization, a real power. Peye brings with it a very important tradition, as it starts the black Pharaoh dynasty, which lasts for about 52 years.

Ras Tafari, the living God

Ras Tafari, the living God

In 1930, Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, fulfilling, for many, the prophecy created by Marcus Garvey, one of the greatest activists in the black nationalist movement. Garvey said in 1920:

Look at Africa, where a black king will be crowned, announcing that the day of liberation will be near.

And then, 10 years later, Tafari came to the throne of Ethiopia, being considered the living God for his followers. He changes his name to Haile Selassie (meaning the power of the most holy trinity). Salassie was a talented speaker and aimed to modernize Ethiopia and place it in the context of world organizations, which led Ethiopia to become an official member of the League of Nations in 1936.

Although he was not successful in managing his country, his influence for the Rastafari movement is still present today, having inspired people like Nelson Mandela, Luther King Jr. and Bob Marley. He was taken as the king of kings; many devotees saw him as a direct descendant of King Menelik I, son of King Solomon and the queen of Sheba, present in the biblical stories in the first testament, which would have started the dynasty that ruled Ethiopia more than 3,000 years ago.

He died in 1975, after a military coup the year before, officially from prostate surgery, although many believed that the military themselves killed him.

Sonni Ali, the first emperor of Songhai

Sonni Ali

Songhai was the largest African Empire of its time, as it dominated about 1.4 million km². Sonni Ali Ber, its first emperor, dominated areas such as the Mali Empire, a very powerful Empire. There he reigned from 1464 to 1492 and prospered between the river routes from Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. He traded salt, gold, amber, animal skins, and others.

From the second half of the 14th century onwards, the Mali Empire underwent a slow process of weakening due to foreign attacks, internal rebellions and rivalries within the court. Led by Sunni Ali, the people of Songhai broke free from the hands of Mali and conquered, in 1468, Tombuctu. He pacified his kingdom and developed it, making it a reference for Africa at the time.